The staff at Redfern Cornerstone Community Center have been my angels. That was true before COVID, and it is even more true now.
I’m a single mom who works as a home health aide. I have a 6-year-old son, Terrell, and a daughter at college.
Terrell first began going to Redfern for summer camp in 2019 when he was 5 years old. He had the time of his life. He would come home and tell me stories about all the people he met. It was just so welcoming and friendly. Before this, he was in the house all day, and being at Redfern really opened him up. They introduced him to arts and crafts, which he enjoys a lot.
When the summer ended, I was glad to learn that Redfern offered an afterschool program and signed him up right away. I was grateful for the homework help, and Terrell loved the field trips. His favorite was ice skating. I was so terrified to let him go, but he said, “I’m gonna be fine, don’t worry about it!” And he was. The staff sent me a video of him on the ice. He was so happy! The program really broadened Terrell’s horizons and gave him experiences he wouldn’t otherwise have had. They also helped him with behavioral issues, and I saw a real difference. Life had settled into a good routine, which is very helpful when you’re a single mom!
Then COVID hit. Everything went south and shut down. We muddled through the spring with my daughter home from college to watch Terrell, but I wasn’t sure what we were going to do for the summer. At least with virtual learning at school he was somewhat engaged. I worried that during the summer he’d have nothing.
I was so glad when I found out that Redfern would be doing summer camp. It was virtual, and I wasn’t sure how it would work, but it turned out great. My daughter was able to provide supervision, but with the programming through Redfern, she didn’t have to entertain him all day. He got to interact with his friends and the staff, whom he loves.
Once school started back up again and my daughter had to go back to college, I didn’t know what to do — again — since school was going to be virtual. I seriously contemplated quitting my job because my son had to come first.
That’s when Redfern got the green light to open for the Learning Bridges program. This has helped me out a whole lot!
Learning Bridges is for students who need a safe space to conduct their virtual learning during school hours. Terrell attends virtual school while he’s at Redfern, and staff are there to make sure he stays on task and to answer any questions or help with any problems.
When the kids come in in the morning, they sign in, wash their hands, and log on to class. They take little breaks throughout the day, and staff make sure they log back on in time for their next class. And although there are a lot of kids there, they make it work. The staff gave noise-cancelling headphones to any students who didn’t have them, and they give them a private place to work when needed. Once Terrell’s teacher wanted to test his reading, and I asked the staff if he could have a quieter area for the testing. They said no problem.
When the school day ends, they transition right into the center’s afterschool program, where Terrell can get his homework done and participate in enrichment activities, which he can’t get enough of. At 5:30 when I pick him up, I ask him what he likes about the center, and he’ll say, “I like to make things with clay!” or “I like the new games.” He also talks about the staff and how he likes that [Group Leader] Ms. Shantrice colors with him. He also loves [Program Site Coordinator] Mr. Keith, [Program Coordinator] Ms. Rosmary, and [Program Director] Mr. Simeon, who is amazing and always makes sure Terrell is OK. They’re all great, and I think of them as a team. As a mom, it makes me so glad to know my son is well-cared for all day and happy.
It’s like one big family here. The staff really treat your child like their own. Everyone knows them and cares about them. Especially during the pandemic, I needed the help really bad, and this program saved me. That’s why I say they’re my angels. The best thing I ever could have done was sign Terrell up for Redfern.